Getting 'Global'

True or false: If your employer has operations in multiple countries across multiple continents, it follows that you work for a global company. If you've read our special report on globalization, you've no doubt concluded that that statement is as false as Grandpa's teeth. If you haven't read it yet, I urge you to do so. Because even if you already get it, there likely are plenty of people in your organization who don't. And this is a great resource to help you spread the message.

Alfonso Cos, vice president for global supply network solutions at Procter & Gamble, nailed it when he said, "There's a big difference between being a global company because you have operations in many countries and being global because you operate globally." To accomplish the latter, P&G has undertaken a four-year project to standardize on SAP for its manufacturing systems in 40 countries and folded its disparate IT groups into a single organization. Simply having a presence in those countries makes you international, but it isn't what makes you global.

Gartner analyst Susan Dallas summed it up similarly: Whether a company is truly global depends on the degree to which its operations in different countries are doing things in common, as opposed to operating like a collection of companies with a headquarters that isn't much more than a holding company. I'd say she has something there. And she's in good company.

I recently spoke with several members of the 2006 class of Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leaders who made it clear that they never would have accomplished what they have for their companies if they didn't get what it means to be global.

Steve Silverman, vice president of IT for global operations at Bausch & Lomb, is about two-thirds of the way through a six-year plan to standardize his systems worldwide on Oracle/PeopleSoft. And it hasn't been easy.

"We all know that when you have packages you've customized over 15 years, it's pretty hard to replace it with a generic package," Silverman says. Getting global consensus and buy-in to enable standardization is a monumental task, but one that can be accomplished with a well-developed communications strategy, he has found.

Fred Danback, vice president of global technology at a global financial services firm in Stamford, Conn., began work in 2001 on a shared services infrastructure for the company's 100 locations in 30 countries. Among the factors that made it successful was a willingness to adopt best practices regardless of where in the world they originated. "We can't say that just because it wasn't invented here in the U.S., it's not the best," Danback says. That might go without saying in theory. But it takes a strong IT leader who really gets it to put it into practice.

Moreover, it isn't just about unifying platforms. Talk to Danback, and you'll understand that it's also about unifying people.

"The things that motivate Americans are the same things that motivate people in other countries," he says. "They want progression, they want mobility, they want to be able to succeed and excel in their career." So as part of an aggressive expansion into India, Danback's company has opted against outsourcing in favor of hiring Indian workers and truly making them a part of the company. "We feel that there is a tremendous amount of potential for these people to move and grow within the organization," Danback explains. Talk about getting it.

There's a lot more in our special report. Go get it.

Don Tennant

Don Tennant is editor in chief of Computerworld. Contact him at

Special Report

Navigating Global IT

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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